Afghanistan contains sizable deposits of precious and semi-precious stones, including emeralds, sapphires, tourmaline, and lapis lazuli, and the gem industry has the potential to be a major driver of economic growth. In the remote eastern province of Nuristan, blue and pink tourmaline, kunzite, and aquamarine have been mined for generations. Yet, until recently, mining and selling gemstones was illegal. Legal provisions for trade in gemstones – considered the property of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – did not exist.
Several years ago, there were only three produce merchants in the Baharak Bazaar, a market in Afghanistan’s remote northern province of Badakhshan. Today, there are 30 traders selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers are growing more diverse crops and enjoying larger harvests as they take advantage of lower transportation costs resulting from a massive USAID program to build and improve roads.
USAID is helping rural Afghans improve their environment and their incomes by planting pistachio seedlings. Wild pistachio forests were once common in northern Afghanistan, but years of improper harvesting and neglect led to the destruction of many forests. Now, a USAID cash-for-work project is underway that will restore pistachio forests covering 700 hectares in Balkh Province while providing jobs for local residents.
The Balkh Canal rehabilitation is one of several cash-for-work projects implemented by USAID to improve water flow and increase agricultural production. The canal cleaning also provided needed employment to laborers in the area, who frequently had trouble finding work to provide for their families.
Afghanistan produces some of the world’s tastiest fruits and nuts, and these high-value food products are in great demand in international markets. Buyers in Europe and Asia are looking to introduce quality Afghan agricultural products to their customers, and producers are eager to meet that demand. However, getting commodities to market presents a number of challenges, and USAID is assisting Afghan producers in the proper packaging and shipping of their goods.
Last updated: October 24, 2016